FBI seizes Mar-a-Lago estate in probe into Trump's handling of White House records

FBI seizes Mar-a-Lago estate in probe into Trump's handling of White House records

The FBI seized Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an investigation into whether he took classified documents from the White House to his Florida residence, people familiar with the matter said. It was a dramatic and unprecedented escalation of law enforcement scrutiny of the former president.

Trump, disclosing his search in a lengthy statement, said that agents had opened a safe at his home and described their work as an unannounced raid that he likened to prosecutorial misconduct. He planned to meet with members of the Republican Study Committee, a group headed by Representative Jim Banks of Indiana, on Tuesday, Aug 9 at his Bedminster, New Jersey club.

Monday's search intensified the months-long investigation into how classified documents ended up in boxes of White House records in Mar-a-Lago earlier this year. A grand jury is looking into the possibility of Trump overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election, and it adds to the legal risk for Trump as he lays the groundwork for another run.

Familiar battle lines, forged during a four-year presidency that was shadowed by investigations, quickly took shape on Monday night. Trump and his allies tried to keep him from winning another term in 2024, despite the Biden White House said he had no prior knowledge of it, and the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, was appointed by Trump five years ago.

These are dark times for our nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents, Trump wrote. Nothing like this happened to a President of the United States before. After working with the relevant government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate, Trump said.

Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson didn't elaborate on the search, including whether Attorney General Merrick Garland had personally authorized it.

The FBI reached out to the Secret Service shortly before serving a warrant, a third person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. The Justice Department contacted Secret Service agents and were able to validate the warrant before allowing access to the estate, the person said.

The Justice Department has been looking into the possibility of mishandling classified information after the National Archives and Records Administration said it received 15 boxes of White House records, including documents containing classified information, earlier this year. The National Archives said Trump should have turned over the material upon leaving office, and it asked the Justice Department to investigate.

There are numerous federal laws that govern the handling of classified records and sensitive government documents, including statutes that make it a crime to remove such material and keep it in an unauthorised location.

A search warrant doesn't necessarily mean criminal charges are close or even expected, but federal officials looking to obtain one must demonstrate to a judge that they have probable cause that a crime occurred.

A person familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the search on Monday was related to the records probe.

Agents were looking to see if Trump had any classified documents or presidential records at the estate.